The future

There are different structures that can be used to talk about the future: will, going to, present continuous and present simple. In the charts below, you can find their differences:

Info1

As you can see, we use WILL to make predictions based on our opinion. That’s why it is usual to find a future sentence introduced by:

  • I think / I don’t think …
  • I believe …
  • I am sure …

On the other hand, we use the periphrasis GOING TO to express predictions based on fact; what we know, what we can see or hear. In other words, we are reaching conclusions about future events from our surroundings, rather than predicting.

Info2

We can also use different future forms to talk about our plans for the future. If we are talking about a future action that we decide at the time of speaking, we must use WILL. Whereas, we use GOING TO or the PRESENT CONTINUOUS to talk about actions that we have already planned. The difference between GOING TO and the PRESENT CONTINUOUS is that we use the latter when we have not only planned but also organised an event.

Therefore, when someone asks you: “What are you going to do this weekend?”, they are asking about your plans. They are not asking you to predict the future. If you have organised a birthday party with your friends and everything is ready, you can answer: “I’m having a birthday party on Saturday night. Would you like to come?”.

Info3

In this last chart, we can see that we also use WILL to make promises and to talk about imprecise future events.

Finally, we use the PRESENT SIMPLE to talk about timetables and schedules. So, we use it to talk about the future when we talk about means of transport, shops, banks, museums, conferences, schools or music festivals.

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Dealing with phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are among the worst nightmares for English students, especially those who are thinking about sitting the FCE.

What I usually recommend my students when dealing with phrasal verbs is to try to memorise them by classifying them.

Most of my students write lists of phrasal verbs classifying them by their verb. Something like this:

Phrasal verb

Meaning

look after someone take care of someone
look down on someone consider someone as inferior
look for something search for something
look forward to something await or anticipate something with pleasure
look up to someone admire someone

However, there are better methods. As I said elsewhere, using mindmaps is a very useful method to classify and memorise vocabulary. You can organise these mindmaps by verb; like this:give-phrasal-verbs

or by particle, like this:

phrasal-verbs-with-up

Another interesting classifcation is to organise phrasal verbs by meaning, rather than form. For instance, you can make a group of phrasal verbs that can be used to talk about human relationships, like this:

relationships-phrasal-verbs

Another useful tip when trying to memorise phrasal verbs -maybe the best so far, is to make up sentences where these phrasal verbs are used in context. For instance:

Phrasal verb Meaning Example
find out discover When I found out that my camera had been stolen I went to the police immediately.
check in register into a hotel or airport Before we can got up to our rooms, we have to check in at the reception.
drop out leave school John is thinking about dropping out after his bad marks last term.
call off cancel The meeting has been called off because some people could not attend.
count on rely on You know you can always count on your family when you are in trouble.

All in all, I think the best way to learn phrasal verbs is to combine all these methods above and work with the new verbs in an active way (by listing, classifying and using them in context).

As usual, you can find this entry in pdf form here.

Adjectives from participles and gerunds (II)

Participle adjectives

Some months ago I published a post about adjectives that come from participles and gerunds. It is time to practice what we learnt there a little bit. You will find a couple of exercises below. The solutions -and a printable version of the exercises- can be downloaded at the end of the text.

Fill in the gaps in these sentences with the adjectives in the list below.

disappointed, confusing, frightened, surprising, embarrassing, frightening, exhausting, exciting, excited, charming, tired

  1. I found the film really _________ . I had to sleep with a light on!
  2. I was so _________ by my exam results. I had studied for weeks but, then, I got so nervous during the exam that I forgot everything.
  3.  The situation was really _________ . Imagine, the day you meet you in-laws; you are having dinner at a posh restaurant the waiter drops all the soup onto you!!!
  4. The children were really _________ about the theme park. They couldn’t stop talking about it.
  5.  I don’t like watching horror films because I feel so _________ afterwards that I can’t sleep.
  6. The book I am reading is so _________ that I have read ten chapters already!
  7. Her story was really _________. I would have never dreamt of such an ending.
  8. The baby is so _________. Look at his rosy cheeks.
  9. Running the London Marathon is _________ . I have never been so _________ before.
  10. The instructions for the task are really _________. I don’t understand what we have to do.

Now choose the correct adjective for each sentence.

  1. I feel really bored/boring today. I don’t know what to do.
  2. The documentary about modern technology was fascinated/fascinating.
  3. Jane was so annoyed/annoying by her argument with Pete that she didn’t come to the party.
  4. After his break-up with Judy, Mark was depressed/depressing for a while, but eventually he started going out again and met his current girlfriend.
  5. I have some amazed/amazing news!
  6. This is a stimulated/stimulating exercise. You should try it!
  7. I found the exhibition really interested/interesting.
  8. The clown’s performance was very entertained/entertaining.
  9. His words are always flattered/flattering but I wouldn’t trust him much.
  10. I’d be so moved/moving by a such a show of affection.

You can download the exercises and their solutions.

Verbs never used in a Continuous tense

When teaching my students the difference between the Present Simple and the Present Continuous, there’s always a moment when I need to tell them that State Verbs are never used in a Continuous tense, but what are and which are State Verbs?

The easiest way to distinguish between state (or non-progressive) verbs is to check the meaning of the verb/sentence. State verbs refer to unalterable conditions, whereas action verbs refer to processes. Compare these sentences:

  • She is tall. (Can that be changed?)
  • She plays the piano. (She can stop playing the piano and start a new process).

Among state verbs we have different subcategories:

Stative: be, seem, appear

Possession: have, belong to, own, contain

Thinking: believe, think, consider, doubt, agree, concern, imagine, impress, mean, understand

Emotions: like, love, hate, dislike, matter, mind, want, wish

Verbs that belong to these groups will never be used in a continuous tense as they cannot be used to describe a process. If you are not sure about a verb, a good tip is to ask yourself “Can I be in the middle of _______ (having a car, believing in God, loving my parents)?” If the answer is negative, then you have a state verb!

You can find several lists in the Internet but you have to be careful with these because sometimes a verb can be used as a state and an action verb because it has more than one meaning. The clearest example is “have”, which can mean “possess” or “take”. For instance,

  • I have a beautiful picture of a British landscape in the living room.
  • I have cereal and milk for breakfast.

The first example is a state verb, whereas the second is an action verb. Therefore, it can be used both in continuous and simple tenses.

Other verbs like “have” are “think”, “be” or “consider”. Can you guess their two meanings?

Let me lend you a hand:

  • I think/consider this is a good idea (I have an opinion)
  • I am thinking/considering about buying a new car (I am making a list of positive and negatvie points before maing a decision)
  • I am a shy (this is an unalterable characteristic)
  • The kid is being very spoilt today (he is behaving in a strange manner)

You can download this information in PDF format.

Conditional sentences

We use conditional sentences to express that a certain situation (the main clause) can only take place if a certain condition (if clause) is met before. We have four different kinds of conditional sentences called Zero, First, Second or Third Conditional -or Type 0, I, II, III. the difference in meaning between these clauses is whether the speaker believes the condition to be more or less possible.

Below, you can find the four different kinds of conditional clauses with an explanation of its form and function.

Zero Conditinal

zero

We use the zero conditional to talk about general facts, not specific situations, for instance, natural laws. Sometimes, we use “when” or “whenever” instead of “if”.

Examples:

  • If/When/Whenever you heat water, it boils.
  • If/When/Whenever it rains, the ground gets wet.
  • If/When/Whenever you don’t sleep well, you are tired.

First Conditional

first

We us the First Conditional to talk about specific situations. Both the condition and the result are seen as real and possible by the speaker.

Examples:

  • If you go to the party, you will meet very interesting people there.
  • If you study hard, you will pass all your exams.
  • If you tell her a secret, she will tell everybody.

Sometimes, instead of “if”, we use the connector “unless”. Compare the following sentences:

  • If he does not get here soon, he will miss the train.
  • Unless he gets here soon, he will miss the train.

Second Conditional

second

We use the second conditional to talk about an unreal situation and its probable result. Both the condition and result are seen as unlikely by the speaker.

Examples:

  • If I had a lot of money, I would buy a new car.
  • If she changed her attitude, she would have more friends.
  • If they helped us, we would finish in about an hour.

If the verb in the “if” clause is the verb to be, we can use “were” with all subjects. It is a more formal option.

  • If I were you, I would tell her the truth.
  • If Jack were here, he would know what to do.

Third Conditional

third

We use the third condional to make hypothesis about the past. Both the condition and the consequence are impossible because they happened in the past

Examples:

  • If I had known how, I would have helped you.
  • If they had not been late, they would have seen the whole film.
  • If John had told me, I wouldn’t have done it.

Whatever the kind of conditional, we can change the order in which we use the sentences. In other words, we can start with the “if” clause, or not. However, it is really important to keep the verb tenses correct. Compare these sentences:

  • If you press the button, the machine starts.
  • The machine starts if you press the button.

 

  • I will call you if she comes.
  • If she comes, I will call.

 

  • I wouldn’t tell you if I knew!
  • If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you!

 

  • I would have arrived on time if I hadn’t missed the train.
  • If I hadn’t missed the train, I would have arrived on time.

 

When we start with the “if” clause, we usually use a comma between clauses. This is not necessary when the “if” clause is at the end.

You can download this information if pdf format by clicking on  “conditionals“.

Frequency adverbs

  • I sometimes write posts about grammar.
  • I always write them in English.
  • I never joke about learning languages.

Today we are going to learn how to use frequency adverbs. To start with, let see some of them:

frequencyadverbs

In the chart above, you can find the most comonly used frequency adverbs ordered from the most to the least frequent. When three of them appear in a column, it means that they have a similar meaning.

Now it’s time to learn to use them in a sentence. First of all, you have to distiguish between frequency and other kinds of adverbs. The former (frequency) follow their special rule about word order in the sentence. In general, word order is very strict in English. The general rule is that the order in a sentence has to be:

Subject + Verb + Objects (Direct and Indirect) + Complements (time, place, manner ….).

Examples:

  • I went to the shop quickly.
  • Jane was sitting on the sofa lazily.

We can make some exceptions to this rule by placing the adverb at the very beginning, but the idea is that the less important complements do not interfere with the Subject+Verb+Object rule.

  • Luckily, we could find the keys.

Frequency adverbs work in a different way. They have to appear just before the main verb. If the main verb is the verb TO BE, they have to be placed after it.

  • Sue never reads the newspaper.
  • We sometimes play computer games.
  • Children hardly ever listen to their parents.
  • Jack does not always come to class.
  • Do they often work on Saturdays?
  • I’m always very happy at Christmas.
  • She isn’t usually here in the mornings.

Again, there might be exceptions to this rule and. Sometimes, adverbs might be placed at the beginning of a sentence, followed by a comma.

  • Sometimes, I feel like having a break from work an travelling all over the world.

There are other adverbs that follow the same rule that frequency adverbs. Some of these are already, also, ever, just…..But we will deal with them in another post!

Finally, there’s only one thing left to say about frequency adverbs. Have a look at the chart at the beginning of the post again, please. Did you notice that some adverbs are positive, while others are negative?

This is because those called “negative” make the sentence negative. In other words, if we use use “hardly ever, seldom, rarely or never”, the sentence becomes negative, which means that we cannot use a negative adverb.

  • Mary never uses the phone when she is having lunch.
  • Mary doesn’t never use the phone when she is having lunch.

I hope you always use frequency adverbs correctly from now on!

Possessive ‘s / Saxon Genitive

Today’s blog is going to deal with how we express possession in English. We are going to focus on one structure; Possessive ‘s or Saxon Genitive.

To start with, let’s see some examples:

  • I like Mary’s jacket.
  • John’s new car is very fast.
  • My father’s dog is very big.

As you can see we use “’s” after a noun or a name to show that an object belongs to someone. So, the jacket belongs to Mary, the car belongs to John and the dog belongs to my father.

When we have a noun with a final -s (because it is plural, or not), we may only add the apostrophe (‘).

  • My friends’ house is very near.
  • Charles’ sister is coming to the party.

If you try to translate these sentences into Spanish or Catalan, you will see that we use a completely different structure:

  • English: possessor + ‘s + object
  • Spanish or Catalan: object + de + possessor

If we used these sentences following the structure in our language, we would be making a mistake:

  • I like the jacket of Mary. (No!!!!!!)
  • The new car of John is very fast. (No!!!!!!)
  • The dog of my father is very big. (No!!!!!!)

However, in English, we sometimes use the structure of + object. Check these
examples:

  • The end of the street is very crowded.
  • The employees of the new supermarket are doing training week.
  • The leg of the table is broken.

In these cases, we can use of + object, because we are talking about a part of a thing, so the relation is not that of possession.

Did you notice that the name my blog contains an example of the possessive ‘s?

Contrast linking words

Although using connectors to link our ideas is necessary to make our text richer and more coherent, it is necessary to know them well to be able to use them properly. That’s the reason why today I am going to focus on a group of connectors; those used to show contrast.

Connectors to show contrast are quite similar in meaning so they can be confusing.  In general terms, the most important difference is grammatical.

I would divide them into four meaning groups:

1

2

3

although

even though

though

in spite of

despite

even if

but

yet

however

nevertheless

while

whereas

Let’s imagine that we have to real facts:

  • It was raining heavily.
  • The concert was not cancelled.

We can link them using connectors from the groups above, but the meaning and form of the sentence will change:

  1. Although it was raining hard, the concert was not cancelled.5180651937_4f81640fc7_b.jpg
  2. Even though it was raining hard, the concert was not cancelled.
  3. Though it was raining hard, the concert was not cancelled.
  4. It was raining hard. The concert was not cancelled, though.
  5. Even if it was raining hard, the concert was not cancelled.
  6. In spite of the heavy rain, the concert was not cancelled.
  7. Despite the heavy rain, the concert was not cancelled.

Although, even though, though and even if can appear at the beginning of a sentence to to introduce a fact that seems to disagree with the main clause. They can be all translated as “aunque”.

Though can also appear at the end of a sentence to show contrast between the previous two statements. This use is informal.

In spite of and despite are used to introduce a noun phrase that contrasts with the main statement. Notice that both connectors must be followed by a noun, a gerund or a clause introduced by “the fact that ….”. They can be translated as “a pesar de”.

 

  1. It was raining heavily but the concert was not cancelled.
  2. It was raining heavily yet the concert was not cancelled.
  3. It was raining heavily; however, the concert was not cancelled.
  4. It was raining heavily; nevertheless, the concert was not cancelled.images

But and yet are used between two contrasting facts. In general, we do not use any punctuation marks, although a comma can sometimes preceded the connector. Yet is more formal than but. They can be translated as “pero”.

 

However and nevertheless are used between two contrasting facts. We usually use them after a comma, semi-colon or stop. Nevertheless is more formal than however. They can be translated as “no obstante”.

  1. While it was raining heavily, it was not too cold.
  2. Whereas it was raining heavily, it was not too cold.

While and whereas introduce two seemingly opposite facts that are true at the same time. They can be translated as “mientras que”.

Even though this explanation could have had more examples, I hope the meaning and usage of these connectors are clearer now.

Adjectives from participles and gerunds

Dear all,

I have always found that students tend to get confussed by the difference between adjectives that end in -ed and those that end in -ing. Some such pairs of adjectives are interested/interesting, bored/boring or frightened/frightening.  If you think you need an explanation, just keep on reading!

To start with, we should see some examples of these adjectives in context. Can you compare these sentences?

  • I have always been interested in literature, especially British literature.
  • The story the teacher was telling was very interesting and the kids were listening in silence.
  • The film was so boring that we left the cinema after half an hour.
  • It was a rainy afternoon and I was bored because I couldn’t go out. Then, I decided I could make some muffins for tea and had a wonderful time.
  • I watched a horror movie and was so frightened that I couldn’t sleep for an entire week.
  • The novel was so frightening that I couldn’t read it before going to bed.

Can you see the difference?

Let me explain… As you may have already guessed, all these adjectives come from verbs (interest, bore, frighten) and use either the past participle or the gerund forms.

We use the past participle (-ed) to describe the way someone feels (I feel interested, bored or frightened), whereas we use the gerund (-ing) to decribe the thing or person that causes this feeling.

Imagine someone tells you:

  • You are bored!
  • You are boring!

There’s a difference, isn’t there? I would be quite offended by the second sentence!

There are many verbs that can produce these double adjectives. Let’s list some of them:

amazed/amazing, embarrassed/embarrassing, excited/exciting, annoyed/annoying, disappointed/disappointing, confused/confusing, surprised/surprising, fascinated/fascinating, depressed/depressing…….

I hope the explanation was interesting and clarifying…..and that you are interested in English, as well as stimulated, excited and fascinated by the blog!!!!

See you online!

17th January, 2017 update: I have added some exercises to revise these adjectives. You can find them here.

 

Verb tenses chart

The English verb system is not particularly difficult, specially if compared to other languages. However, it may pose some problems to students. For those who need a short walkthourgh this post may be very handy

It does not aim to offer a detailed explanaition of all verb tenses in English, simply a short summary of each of them with its form, usage and most frequent time clauses.

Present simple

1
Present simple form in positive, negative and interrogatove forms. Notice the final “-s” in the positive form and the different auxiliary form that find for the third person singular subjects (he, she, it)

Uses:

  • Actions which are always true. Always used with state verbs.
  • Habits.
  • Accompanied by frequency adverbs (always, usually, frequently, normally, often, occasionally, sometimes, hardly ever, rarely, seldom, never)

Past simple regular

2
Past simple for for positive, negative and interrogative forms for regular verbs. Notice that the final “-s” we had in the present simple has disappeared and that we only have one single for all subjects.

Uses:

  • Actions in finished in the past.
  • Accompanied by: last week, three months ago, when I was born,…

Past simple irregular

3
Each irregular verb has its unique form. You will need an irregular verb list to learn which one you need.

Present continuous

4
To form the present continuous, we need the auxiliary verb “to be” and the gerund of the main verb.

Uses:

  • Actions in progress.
  • Actions taking place now.
  • Accompanied by: now, right now, at the moment, today, this week,…

Past continuous

5
As with the present continuous, we need the verb “to be”, but this time, in the past.

Uses:

  • Actions in progress in a given moment in times.
  • Background actions taking place when something else happened.
  • Introduced by: while, as, when,…

Present perfect

6
For the present perfect, we need the auxiliary verb “to have” and the past participle of the main verb. Be careful because some verbs have an irregular past participle form.

Uses:

  • Past action which is connected to the present.
  • News.
  • Action which started in the past and has not finished yet.
  • Accompanied by already, yet, just and clauses introduced by for, since.

Past perfect

7
To form the past perfect tense, you need the auxiliary verb “to have”, in the past, and the past participle of the main form. Remember to check whether the verb is refular or not!

Uses:

  • Past action which is connected to another past time.
  • Accompanied by already, yet, just and clauses introduced by for, since.

Present perfect continuous

8
As this tense is a combination of perfect and continuous tense, we need both the auxiliary verb “to have” and the auxiliary verb “to be”. The first one in the present simple form and the second one in the past participle form. After the auxiliaries, we need the gerund of the main verb.

Uses:

  • Past action which is connected to the present.
  • Action which started in the past and has not finished yet.
  • The emphasis is on the duration of the action.
  • Accompanied by already, yet, just and clauses introduced by for, since.

Past perfect continuous

9
Again, we are combining perfect and continuous modes, so we need the auxiliary “to have” in the past and the auxiliary “to be” in the past perfect form. After them, we need the gerund.

Uses:

  • Past action which is connected to another past time.
  • The emphasis is on the duration of the action.
  • Accompanied by already, yet, just and clauses introduced by for, since.

Future simple

10
To form the future simple tense, we need the modal verb “will” followed by an infinitive without “to”.

Uses:

  • Action which will take place in a future moment.

Future Continuous

11
As a continuous tense, the future continuous needs the future form of the verb “to be”. In other words “will be”. After that, you will need the gerund of the main verb.

Uses:

  • Action which will be in progress at a future moment.

Future Perfect

12
The future perfect needs the modal verb “will” and the auxiliary verb “to have” in the infinitive form without “to”, followed by the main verb in the past perfect form.

Uses:

  • Action will be finished at a certain time in the future.
  • Accompanied by time clauses introduced by “by”.